A wife passes from bliss to betrayal and forgiveness to fear, in trying to come to terms with her husband's infidelity with a city vamp.
Planned in Germany and filmed in Hollywood, this adaptation of Herman Sudermann's A Trip To Tilsit (subtitled A Song Of Two Humans) is a remarkable combination of European art and American craft.
Given total control by the studio, F. W. Murnau built a romanticised rural retreat and a temptation-riddled metropolis on the Fox lot to control every patch of seductive moonlight and dizzying impression of urban unfamiliarity. Charles Rosher and Karl Struss thoroughly merited their Oscars for the lustrous visuals (the first achieved with panchromatic stock) and symbolic shifts of mood.
Janet Gaynor's award-winning performance is a masterclass in silent mime, as she passes from bliss to betrayal, forgiveness to fear, in trying to come to terms with husband George O'Brien's infidelity with city vamp Margaret Livingston. It's compelling melodrama, but less cinematically significant than Murnau's earlier classic, 'The Last Laugh'.
This sexy melodrama and intense psychological thriller provides an original and satisfying mix of romanticism, artifice and realism.
Reviewed by David Parkinson